Sarbanes Oxley—Don’t Involve ISO Standards

I am concerned about quality professionals capitalizing on the flawed solution that is the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) law. Two May 2007 articles—“ASQ Team Offers SOX Comments” (p. 19) and “Financial Control and Quality” (William Stimson and Tom Dlugopolski, p. 26)—promote ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 as systems to support SOX audits.

While I agree that quality has a role in helping organizations comply with SOX, quality professionals must be careful to avoid further increasing the already exorbitant costs that companies have incurred from SOX compliance.

The fundamental problem with SOX is that it will not solve what it was intended to. SOX was Congress’ response to the fraud and shareholder losses of Enron, WorldCom and Tyco. President Bush introduced the law by saying SOX would “deter and punish corporate and account fraud and corruption, ensure justice for wrongdoers, and protect the interests of workers and shareholders.”

Quality professionals often say you cannot “inspect in quality”; quality must be built into the process. Similarly, you cannot “audit in honesty.” Further audits will never prevent smart executives from stealing from their shareholders if they really want to.

At the ASQ Southeastern Quality Conference in 2004, Michelle Samuels, who is responsible for SOX implementation at Turner Broadcasting, said SOX would not reduce the likelihood of CNN executives stealing from the company. In fact, what executive would not be willing to sign off on a SOX audit, which essentially says everything is fine? SOX actually provides cover for an executive who wants to steal from shareholders.

I have worked with clients whose annual audit costs have more than doubled because of SOX. The law itself states that SOX “should not result in an additional audit,” but that is what has often happened.

Quality professionals shouldn’t further increase companies’ costs by expanding their use of ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 into the SOX realm. Sens. Mel Martinez and Jim DeMint are co-sponsoring a revision to SOX that would reduce its impact on small businesses and the frequency with which companies must affirm compliance. If quality professionals want to be involved with SOX, supporting this revision would be a great place to start.

Patton Performance Solutions
Lake Mary, FL

Flow Process Chart Remains Useful

I agree with Tom Kubiak that shortcuts during a Six Sigma project can damage the final result (“Reviving the Process Map,” May 2007, p. 59), but I disagree that the flow process chart is no longer a critical tool.

A lot of confusion comes from changing terminology, specialization of improvement team concepts and lack of clarity on what process charts, process maps, flow process charts and procedure charts can include and be used for. Some distinctions are whether the process crosses work centers (procedure chart), focuses on internal movement through process activities (flow process), is looking at macro or microprocess steps, or is based largely on the suppliers, inputs, processing, outputs, customers model.

Times, input, output, operators and results can be incorporated into any of the charts. In an in-depth Six Sigma study, I would think multiple charts would be used, based on the scope of the outcome expected, yet not every chart will be presented in an out brief.

Also, a lot of charting is dictated by who is going to use the chart. A process owner or operator might use the simplest flowchart to manage the process within his or her span of control. A manager might use process or procedure charts based on his or her control span and the type and extent of the process. A process improvement team might use any of the charting tools to improve the process based on the team’s purpose or goal.

While Six Sigma process mapping (using Y=f(x)) might be the most mathematical way to chart the process, the same information can be obtained and integrated into the process analysis by other means, keeping the charts simple and clean so the uninitiated will easily and quickly understand the method.

Organizational performance consultant

Process Map, Flowchart: Same Thing?

Point of terminology: “Reviving the Process Map” distinguishes between “process map” and “flowchart,” but I believe they are synonyms. Both are generic terms for various ways to diagram a process.

According to one website, process mapping “is also known as process charting or flow charting” and “the original system [was] invented by Frank Gilbreth in the early 1900s” (www.strategosinc.com/process_map_example.htm). While that site is not necessarily a definitive authority, I agree with the statement. I think someone coined the term process map 20 or 30 years ago because it sounded fresher than flowchart.

I’m not criticizing the article, which recommends a particular kind of process map—one that gets more factors and more detail onto the page. Because it is well suited for Six Sigma studies, maybe it should be called a Six Sigma process map.

Schonberger & Associates
Bellevue, WA

5S Might Not Be Good for Children

When I saw “5S for Families,” (Davorka Filipusic, May 2007, p. 66), I was sure it was a parody. However, after reading it, I see the author actually didn’t intend it to be humorous.

I can’t imagine what’s next for that poor 4-year-old—maybe monthly CQR (child quality rating) reports, with ratings for areas such as academics, athletics, attractiveness and cost of childhood. At best, the parents might end up with a child who has little creativity and obsessive compulsive tendencies. At worst, they’ll have to shell out for a good psychologist when the child rebels against their ridiculous demands for conformity.

I hope when they are elderly, this child gives them their own strict guidelines to adhere to and a requirement that their PQRs (parent quality ratings) not fall below an acceptable limit. “Sorry, mom, but your PQR of less than 99% requires that I put you into a nursing home until you can demonstrate capability.”

Grayline Inc.
Waukesha, WI

Author’s Response

Thank you for sharing your viewpoint. I didn’t mention it in the column, but my approach is based on research and principles of behavior management for children.

Age appropriate 5S can be introduced gradually at home as a family activity. The 5S game shows consistent, positive examples of adult behavior from which children can learn by watching and doing activities with their parents. 5S for families is intended to be a form of play and a program with a goal, structure and a schedule that teaches by repetition and helps improve behavior.

I am happy to say all other feedback I received was complimentary.



The statistics article in “10 Quality Basics” (June 2007, pp. 28-29) contained an incorrect formula. The correct formula,

Y = f(x) + E,

is used to make decisions on the basis of data and distinguish between the two components. Y is what you get, f(x) is the total effect of all controls exerted on the process (intentionally or unintentionally), and E is random variation.

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